Cover-Up in Kiryat Sefer

A major topic in recent weeks in New York (R.Weberman) and London (R.Padwa and R.Halpern) is now hitting Israel.
A leading story in today's Israeli media is about an attack upon a 5 year old girl in Kiryat Sefer.

The girl was apparently walking to kindergarten, and was grabbed and severely abused by a man, for a period of two hours.

The focus of the story and much of the commentary is that neither the parents, nor anyone else directly involved, was willing to report the crime to the authorities - or assist the police in their investigation.

This has opened up the topic of cover-ups of child abuse, particularly in some closed ultra-orthodox communities. 

Some of the policies which increase risk of child abuse in such communities are:

1.  Taboo - the topic of child protection is not discussed and therefore adults, children and even community leaders and educators are ill-informed about it. 

2. Naivety - although 'stranger danger' is applied to people outside of the community, there is an unrealistic assumption that anyone who 'looks like us' is kosher and above suspicion.

3. Family Life - ultra-orthodox families are encouraged to have very large families. Couples usually marry young and can have ten or twelve children. The mother is often required to manage the large and often under-funded household, while also working to provide for the family. This is a mission impossible, raising enormous logistical challenges. Therefore child supervision can be minimalistic at best, and neglectful at worst. Young children are routinely required to supervise their even younger siblings. In the case of the attack in Kiryat Sefer, the five year old girl was apparently taking herself to kindergarten. 

In an environment of hefkerut, vulnerable children can represent easy pickings for perpetrators.

4. Halachik Concepts - attempts to impose halachik/hashkafic concepts on 21st Century child abuse cases results in considerable confusion. Perpetrators take advantage of this confusion in their communities. 
Examples include: "Motsei Shem Rah", "Loshon Hora", "Mesira", rules of "eidus" (eg. women and children are not 'kosher witnesses'), the description of the aveira (eg. whether molestation is codified as an offense), the use of or reference to Batei Din (which have no jurisdiction or expertise in hearing criminal cases).

5. "Dealing with this internally" - instead of turning to the police and social services, there is a policy of trying to keep cases of child abuse an internal community issue. This is not to say the internal community resources 'do nothing'. They can refer victims and perpetrators to therapists who are willing to work illegally. They can apply pressure to make an alleged perpetrator leave the community (and move on to another one). They can apply communal pressure to make sure that the victim and his/her family do not expose the crime.

All these factors, together, result in communities where children are more vulnerable to abuse, without access to professional protection, intervention, and treatment; and where perpetrators can operate without punitive consequences or treatment.  


  1. David,

    I don't know if it's halachically acceptable, but as you mentioned the names of known paedophiles above you placed an "r" in front of their names.

    While they might technically have smicha, I personally am appalled that we allow these scum to retain the mantle of "rabbi." This is an embarrassment. Perhaps we should only refer to them by either their last name or (preferably) by their prison number.

    What do you think?

  2. Ever notice that these horror stories tend to come from haredi environments more than other parts of the Jewish world?Methinks they doth protest too much. The uber-emphasis on Tzneeeeeeoooooottttt is a cover-up for people not adjusted to life. They're not normal. It is an informative and alarming trend that speaks unacknowledged volumes about haredi mindsets. Has Dr Pelcovits or anyone studied the phenomenon?

  3. Hi Joel - Thanks for raising the point about these gentlemen's titles.

    I initially wrote just their surnames.

    I thought about it a moment, and decided to add "R" before Padwa - because he's a chashuv rabbi, Dayan, etc, and he said dumb things, but didn't commit any crime.

    Then I thought, well, why not give Chaim Halpern his title too? Also a community rav, talmid chacham, chashuv, and (allegedly) a lecherous abuser of dozens of women 'therapy' clients. Hmm.

    "IM KVAR AZ KVAR", I reckoned, if we're calling Helpern a "R", then he has a similar profile to Weberman - who I guess should get his title too....

    Not that "R" Weberman's cell-mate will be very impressed.

  4. Hi Anonymous

    The politically correct line is that "there is no evidence to show that abuse happens more in Hareidi communities than in any other community".

    Only one quasi-scientific study has been publicised, involving a questionnaire in a women's mikve. Around 1 in 4 women said they had been sexually abused by the age of 18.

    This is similar to studies of the general population.

    In his talk for Magen a couple of weeks ago, Dr Pelcovitz said that sexual abuse within families seems to be a bigger phenomenon in orthodox communities than in the general population.

    At Magen, over 70% of calls are from families who describe themselves as Chareidim.

    The Beit Shemesh social services quote similar figures.

    The Child Protection Center in Jerusalem quotes 60-70% of cases they see are hareidim.

    Bare in mind that these are cases which are REPORTED - and under-reporting is particularly problematic in hareidi communities.

  5. A man in texas beat his daughters abuser to death after catching him in the act...This is the right way we should deal with things if we want to deal with them "internally."

  6. I think you should cancel this article, it was now in the headlines of one of the leading friar news sites that this story was fantasied by the kindergarten teacher


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